Not Ready for Prime Time

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August 28, 2005
Not Ready for Prime Time

by Bob Hulsey

A old, recurring skit on Saturday Night Live had Dan Aykroyd in the role of artsy critic Leonard Pinth-Garnell introducing, then panning, poorly-performed theatre. It was hard not to think of his typical summation when watching the Texans-Cowboy Saturday Night botchfest at Texas Stadium. "Rally Socks."

There was David Carr throwing misiles off target. There was Andre Johnson dropping the ones that found their mark. There were untimely penalties, muffed punts and fumbles. And that’s just from the Texans.

Dallas made their share of mistakes too but overcame them in time to pull out a 21-9 victory. Thirty-three-year old Drew Bledsoe is the Cowboy quarterback this year and, in Bill Parcells’ offense, that’s considered a youth movement. With five minutes left in the first half, Bledsoe remembered that he, too, was once an overall #1 draft choice and began playing like it. Bledsoe reeled off five straight completions to march the Cowboys to the the Texan 21 where Julius Jones sprinted off right tackle for the 7-0 lead.

After a slow start, Bledsoe ended with 11-for-18 passing and 113 yards. His former Patriot teammate Terry Glenn was his favorite target. "She" caught five balls for 51 yards.

Carr ended the half with a lackluster 7-of-19 for 52 yards and two interceptions, one he deserved and one he didn’t. Backup Tony Banks was little better in the second half, hitting 8-of-18 for 93 yards and no picks but a very costly fumble.

Carr was picked off in the end zone by Terrence Newman in the second quarter, snuffing out the most promising drive of the night. He rolled out from the Dallas 21 and lofted the ball for Johnson just before reaching the sideline, but the diminutive Newman leaped and grabbed it before it could get to Johnson. Later, Carr had a laser bounce off tight end Matt Murphy, who double-clutched the ball into the hands of Dat Nguyen.

The Cowboys had a chance to expand the lead late but mismanaged the end of the half, forcing Jose Cortez to run onto the field and kick as time expired. His 31-yard attempt misfired. Bledsoe’s backup, Tony Romo, muffed the snap of a later field goal attempt. Romo would make up for it with 5-for-8 passing in the second half, leading the Cowboys to their final two touchdowns.

Domanick Davis and the rushing offense made some dents in the Cowboy front wall that is still adjusting to the 3-4 defense. He carried 8 times for 39 yards while rookie Vernand Morency added 11 carries for 55 yards including one romp of 23 just before halftime. Davis left early with bruises to his right elbow and right ankle.

A 51-yard punt return by rookie speedster Jerome Mathis set up a 50-yard field goal by Kris Brown to pull Houston within 7-3, midway through the third quarter.

Mistakes then bit the Texans again. Tony Banks fumbled a ball he should have thrown away seconds before and set the Cowboys up deep in Houston’s end. Four plays later, Tyson Thompson crashed over from the one to put the Cowboys ahead by 11. Houston returner Reggie Swinton responded with a 102-yard kickoff return that looked similar in ease to the kick return Swinton made WITH the Cowboys against the Texans two years ago. Tony Hollings failed on the two-point conversion, putting the Texans down, 14-9.

Quincy Morgan capped the night with 3:14 to go when he took a two-yard scoring pass from Romo to finish a 66-yard drive.

The Texans face a short week, cutting their roster on Tuesday then facing the Buccaneers in Tampa on Thursday night. With any luck, it won’t resemble a bad skit or a comedy of errors.

What Went Right?

Kicking Game The special teams provided all nine points and got off some long kick returns from Swinton, Mathis and Phillip Buchanon. Sure, there was also a muffed punt, a 12-yard kick and a host of penalties, but it was still nice to see so much explosiveness to work with.

Third Down Defense Until scrub time, the Texans had held the Cowboys without a third-down conversion. While some of that was Dallas’ offensive ineptness, some of it was heart and hustle by a front seven that was giving the starting front line of the Cowboys a lot of trouble. Antwan Peek stepped up his pass rush while the defensive line was battling the massive Cowboy front to a draw.

Still Have Our Health And for the third straight week, the Texans avoided any catastrophic injuries. Zach Weigert should be back in time for the season opener, and the Texans have a good chance to begin the season in relatively complete health.

What Went Wrong?

Err Carr Probably the most troubling sight to see was how badly Carr was missing on some of his throws. Couple that with the poor decision to throw that end zone pick to Newman and it makes you wonder if he’s really had enough reps to be in sync with his teammates.

Hanky Panky Eleven penalties for 95 yards. That doesn’t even count a few that the Cowboys declined and one offsetting personal foul. Unless you’re the Raiders, you can’t win football games and get flagged that often. Guard Chester Pitts had two holding calls before the game was 11 minutes old.

Field Position While Carr and the regulars were in, their best starting point was their own 27-yard line. Four of the six times the Texans were backed up by penalties on kick returns. They spent much of the game stuck on their own side of the field thanks to penalties and a lack of defensive turnovers.

Key Play Of The Game

On a 2nd-and-11 from his own 34 with 10:43 left in the game and trailing by four points, Banks faked a run and rolled right to pass. Rookie Dallas linebacker Kevin Burnett was unblocked and did not go for the fake, moving in on Banks who had time to realize he was about to be tackled. Instead of grounding the ball or taking the sack, Banks made the mistake of trying to fight off the tackle.

Burnett forced the ball loose and it rolled back to the Houston 20 where fellow rookie Jay Ratliff picked it up and fell forward to the 15. That play set up the touchdown that gave Dallas an 11-point lead and, even though it was somewhat negated by Swinton’s return moments later, it serves nicely as the signature moment summarizing the game. Preseason Week 3 Recap Matt Murphy drops a pass when hit by Roy Williams, and wathches it land in Dat Nguyen’s hands for an interception. Final Score Houston Texans 9 Dallas Cowboys 21 Lookin’ Good

Domanick Davis
Double D rattled off 39 yards in just eight carries (4.9 ypc) before leaving with a sore right ankle and a sore right elbow – proving he is already in mid-season form.

Oh, my eyes!

Gary Walker and Antwan Peek
It looked like a sure sack when Walker and Peek zeroed in on Bledsoe in the first quarter but Bledsoe stepped up at the last moment and the two Texans smacked into each other and collapsed to the turf. Both shook it off and returned later to the game. They can be forgiven for thinking another tackler wouldn’t be near the quarterback since, with their defense, it happens so rarely.

2005 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.13 Denver 14-20 08.20 Oakland 19-17 08.26 at Dallas 9-21 09.01 at Tampa Bay 14-38 Regular Season 09.11 at Buffalo 7-22 09.18 Pittsburgh 7-27 09.25 Bye   10.02 at Cincinnati 10-16 10.09 Tennessee 20-34 10.16 at Seattle 10-42 10.23 Indianapolis 20-38 10.30 Cleveland 19-16 11.06 at Jacksonville 14-21 11.13 at Indianapolis 17-31 11.20 Kansas City 17-45 11.27 St. Louis 27-33 12.04 at Baltimore 15-16 12.11 at Tennessee 10-13 12.18 Arizona 30-19 12.24 Jacksonville 20-38 01.01 at San Francisco 17-20   Overall Record 2-14